Why Are We Obsessing on Wellness?

Heresy at Health Affairs:

Virtually unheard of thirty years ago, workplace wellness is now embedded in large self-insured companies. These firms pay their workers an average of $460/year to participate in worksite wellness programs. Further, wellness is deeply enough engrained in the public policy consciousness to have earned a prominent place in the Affordable Care Act, which allows large employers to tie a significant percentage of health spending to employee health behavior and provides direct subsidies for small businesses to undertake these workplace wellness programs.

Yet the implausible, disproven, and often mathematically impossible claims of success underlying the “get well quick” programs promoted by the wellness industry raise many questions about the wisdom of these decisions and policies.

So why are we doing this? I proposed an answer in Priceless: wellness programs attract employees who are already healthy and repel those who aren’t.

Comments (5)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Studebaker says:

    [W]ellness programs attract employees who are already healthy and repel those who aren’t.

    I think that’s probably correct. The wellness plans that work are those that involve management from the top down. Basically, if workers feel compelled through peer pressure (and actual pressure) to work out, climb stairs, take 10,000 steps per day, watch what they eat, they may lose weight and lower their blood pressure.

    A more likely outcome is they are forced to either assimilate into the Team at work or discouraged enough to quietly leave. The benefit of wellness programs probably has more to do with assimilation and team building than cutting health care costs. However, if employers drive off unhealthy employees, so much the better.

  2. Andrew O says:

    Don’t see wellness programs that promote healthy diets and lifestyles as irresponsible initiatives/policies. However, the problem is when those at the top take advantage of the concept of wellness to make money off of this new “wellness culture.”

  3. Evan Carr says:

    I agree that companies should not be profiting off of wellness initiatives. There is a big difference between treating the sick and symptoms and promoting health and wellness and the root causes. Modernity places undue stress upon our bodies that simply did not exist 100 years ago. With these new environmental influences, the incidence of chronic disease and serious health conditions has grown. Wellness is a lifestyle choice that should be encouraged. The question is whether employers are in the appropriate position to encourage health and wellness. And that depends on what role you believe an employer should play in an employee’s life.

  4. Jordan says:

    +1 Studebaker

  5. The Native Indian says:

    The fascination behind wellness is because public health professionals are highlighting that most of the major diseases are the result of unhealthy life styles, and so, many are looking to wellness as a way to change the health culture. Certainly, no big break through has been witnessed, that said, more innovative methods need to tested. I think the importation of information technology will be important here.